Top 10 Must-See Horror Movies of the Last 25 Years

Heather Donahue in The Blair Witch ProjectIn the last 25 years, filmmakers have devised ever more frightening ways to scare audiences into a screaming frenzy. From the hyper-realistic found-footage approach of The Blair Witch Project to the Best Picture Oscar-winning The Silence of the Lambs, here are 10 of these terrifying modern-day classics—all of which can be found in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

1. Audition
This Japanese psycho-horror movie from director Takashi Miike opens with single father Shigeharu (Ryo Ishibashi) grieving over the loss of his wife. After seven years, the lonely middle-aged widower finds himself a suitably refined female partner by staging a fake movie audition with the help of his movie-producer pal Yasuhisa (Jun Kunimura). Shigeharu’s bride-to-be seems perfect; not only is Asami (Eihi Shiina) demure and polite, she’s also a 21-year-old ex-ballerina. Of course, as with most horror movies, there’s much more to Asami than meets the eye. (And speaking of eyes, you might want to close yours during Audition‘s sadistic finale.)

2. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Loosely based on real-life murderer Henry Lee Lucas, this highly controversial movie was shot cinema verite-style and features more than a dozen sickening slayings by its titular serial killer. Henry (Michael Rooker) even videotapes his most upsetting crime, the murder of a helpless family of three in their suburban home, which he and his partner in crime Otis (Tom Towles) later watch as entertainment.

3. Jacob’s Ladder
After being wounded in combat, Vietnam veteran Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) experiences a string of intense drug-related hallucinations involving demons, horns and a faceless, evil doctor. The movie’s plot-twist conclusion finds Jacob reuniting with his dead 6-year-old son Gabriel (Macauley Culkin) after peacefully accepting his own fate.

4. Jurassic Park
Often called “Jaws with dinosaurs,” Steven Spielberg’s award-winning action-adventure movie offers horrors and frights aplenty thanks to its groundbreaking visual effects. Misguided philanthropist-entrepreneur Hammond (Richard Attenborough) and a group of genetic scientists create a variety of cloned dinosaurs at an usual wildlife theme park, but what starts out as a majestic experiment leads to a horrific chain of events—including the escape of a ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex and a pair of young kids facing off against a carnivorous Velociraptor.

5. Paranormal Activity
Like Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity was a “found footage” horror flick that leveraged its clever viral marketing campaign into massive box-office success. A minimalist and completely bloodless thriller, it’s about a mysterious nocturnal entity documented with a night-vision camcorder in the bedroom of a young couple’s ordinary suburban home. It’s chillingly creepy.

6. Ring
Hideo Nakata’s thriller centers on a cursed videotape that kills its unsuspecting viewers within seven days. TV journalist Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima) and her psychic ex-husband, Ryuji (Hiroyuki Sanada), investigate the urban legend after the mysterious deaths of her niece and three friends. When Reiko watches the strange tape herself, the clock begins ticking on her own life as she and Ryuji race to unravel the video’s decades-old mystery.

7. Scream
The teen-slasher subgenre was singlehandedly revitalized by this tongue-in-cheek, self-referential horror flick from famed frightmonger Wes Craven. Terrorized teen Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) finds herself and her friends repeatedly threatened by a masked murderer a year after her mother’s own grisly killing. Simultaneously spoofing and paying homage to the horror genre, Scream is packed with sly nods to Alfred Hitchcock and other prominent horror auteurs.

8. The Blair Witch Project
This “found footage” scare-fest from co-directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick was a media-savvy hit, released at the dawn of the ubiquitous camcorder revolution and considered a precursor of reality TV. Three student filmmakers venture into Maryland’s Black Hills Forest to investigate a local legend about a ruthless 18th-century spirit; the trio ultimately vanishes, leaving behind only their video footage. Thanks to Blair Witch‘s ingenious marketing campaign, many moviegoers believed it was a real documentary—which, of course, only made it all the more terrifying.

9. The Silence of the Lambs
One of the most suspenseful thrillers ever produced, director Jonathan Demme’s superbly crafted, harrowing movie was a Best Picture Oscar winner. Psychiatrist-turned-psychopath Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) engages in a disturbing cat-and-mouse game with FBI agent-trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) to share information about another wanted serial killer, “Buffalo Bill,” notorious for skinning his female victims. Clarice and Hannibal’s relationship is equal parts creepy and tender—just one way Silence of the Lambs thwarts expectations.

10. The Sixth Sense
Subdued child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) counsels a haunted young boy named Cole (Haley Joel Osment) while also fearing that his marriage to the uncommunicative and forlorn Anna (Olivia Williams) is falling apart. Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan made his name with this award-winning suspense thriller—which not only revitalized the genre, but also featured one of the biggest twist endings of all time.